Packers To Hire Matt LaFleur As HC

Mark87

Carpe Diem
Admin
Messages
5,330
Website
wisconsinsportstalk.net
Nice read here by Huber at Pack report....free so posting it :

Before Matt LaFleur became coach of the Green Bay Packers, he was a little kid with dreams of being like his dad.

LaFleur was a frequent spectator on the sidelines at Central Michigan, where his father, Denny, was a starting linebacker before joining his alma mater as an assistant coach for almost two decades.

“He was always with me on the sidelines,” Denny LaFleur recalled. “He got that college experience from an early age. He was there for all of the home games, the away games. Even for bowl games, he was right there with me.”

The son of a coach. Talk to anyone along Matt LaFleur’s path to becoming the Packers’ 15th head coach, and that’s what you hear.

At Mount Pleasant (Mich.) High School, LaFleur was an all-state quarterback. After one year as a receiver at Western Michigan, he transferred to Saginaw Valley State and moved back to quarterback. With former Packers receiver Ruvell Martin as one of LaFleur’s favorite targets, Saginaw Valley State earned three consecutive trips to the NCAA Division II playoffs.

With his playing eligibility complete, LaFleur joined Saginaw Valley’s coaching staff as a graduate assistant for the 2003 season.

“I knew at a young age. I knew I was going to be a football coach,” LaFleur said after his introductory news conference on Wednesday. “That’s what I’d been around. I think a lot of us are probably products of our environment, but as soon as I became a G.A., I definitely knew. Like, hey, this is the career path for me. As a matter of fact, I joked with my wife, ‘Hey, just understand I’m a football coach.’ I always kidded with her, ‘Hey, there’s two kinds of wives. Coaches wives and ex-wives.’ So, thank God I’ve got a coach’s wife. She is a trooper.”

Indeed, because LaFleur has been relentless in his pursuit of the opportunity he’s earned with the Packers. Green Bay will be the 11th place he’s called home since becoming a coach. Following one year at Saginaw Valley State, LaFleur spent two years with his dad as an offensive assistant at Central Michigan, the 2006 season as quarterbacks and receivers coach at Northern Michigan and the 2007 season as offensive coordinator at Ashland.

That led to his big break, vaulting from Division II to the NFL as offensive quality control coach for the Houston Texans for the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

“That’s a great story,” LaFleur said. “When I was a grad assistant at Central Michigan, there was a guy named Robert Saleh who was there (in 2004). Robert was my roommate for a year. Robert, who is now the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, was a quality control for the Houston Texans. I’ll never forget. He kept encouraging me to go to the (Scouting) Combine. They played in Cleveland that year and he’s like, ‘Hey, come up, I’ll introduce you to some of the guys.’

“I did that. I went to the Combine, met some guys and went up to Cleveland and met them again. So, I started to become somewhat of a familiar face. When Mike Sherman took the job from Houston to Texas A&M, he took one of the quality control guys with him. So, it opened up the door. It’s very rare that a quality control coach is going to get another guy in the building. It’s really a credit to the work that Robert was able to accomplish there in Houston. He kept pounding the table for me. They knew at least what I looked like; they didn’t necessarily know my work. I’ll never forget he kept telling me and I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever. That’s not going to happen.’ All of a sudden, I got a phone call from (Texans coach) Gary Kubiak.”

LaFleur spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons with Houston before getting his next big job with the Washington Redskins. He spent the 2010 through 2013 seasons as their quarterbacks coach before working as quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame in 2014, quarterbacks coach for the Atlanta Falcons in 2015 and 2016, offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams in 2017 and offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans in 2018.

“He’s a great football coach,” Rams coach Sean McVay said last week. “Got a great understanding from offensive football. Really, he’s just such a great guy, where he cares about people. He’s going to be honest with his communication. Then, he’s going to be invested in working really hard and trying to help put guys in good spots. But, when you see those types of things, you can’t do anything but just be really happy for a close friend. I love his family – his wife, BreAnne, his two boys, Ty and Luke. So, it’s an exciting thing for the Packers and for Matt for sure.”

To be sure, Kyle Shanahan and McVay have been enormous influences on LaFleur. However, you can’t tell LaFleur’s story without mentioning Randy Awrey, Dan Maciejczak, Bernie Anderson and Lee Owens.
Awrey was the coach at Saginaw Valley State from 1999 through 2007. With LaFleur as the quarterback and Awrey as the coach, the Cardinals went 9-3 in 2000, 11-2 in 2001 and 9-3 in 2002. In LaFleur’s one season on Awrey’s staff, they went 12-1 and returned to the playoffs. That’s four seasons of nine-plus wins and four playoff berths; it has only two nine-win seasons the past 15 years.
Thinking back, Awrey said there was “no doubt” LaFleur would become a successful coach.

“If you go back through his history, his father was a college coach. He’s got that in his background,” said Awrey, now the coach at Perquimans County High School in Hertford, N.C. “He was a quarterback, so now you’ve got a two-fold situation. I have three sons who have been on the sidelines all their life. They picked up a lot of football from the games and the practices. Matt picked up a lot about the game through his father first, and then was a student of the game.

“When he became our quarterback, it was awesome. It was like another coach. He knew the game, understood the game, could create things, make things happen. He was a guy who was a fierce competitor. I don’t know many people who were more competitive than he is. He really put in the work, put in the time. By the time he got done playing, I knew he was going somewhere. At every job, he outgrew it real fast. He was a grad assistant and, the next thing you know, he needed to be a full-time coach. He needed to be a coordinator. He needed to go to a bigger place. Even in the NFL, he just kept blossoming and building off of his experiences. He’s as good as they get.”

Before LaFleur joined his dad the following season at Central Michigan, he played briefly with an indoor football team, the Billings (Mont.) Outlaws. Maciejczak was the coach for the 2004 season. With his quarterback hurt, Maciejczak needed someone to fill in for a few weeks. Even now, Maciejczak remembers “this Matt kid” who immediately bonded with a group of players that he met at midseason and probably would never see again.

“Those guys at that time, they’re playing because they love the game but we had a lot of different kind of characters,” Maciejczak recalled. “We had guys who were in trouble for drugs and were looking for a chance. We had guys that maybe weren’t quite fast enough. When you can gel a team together and you’ve got all divisions, from Division I and sitting out for three years or whatever the case may be, and then you can put them all together, I think that’s what you’re looking for. It’s a guy that can take a lot of different personalities and put them together to win football games.”
After two seasons as an assistant at Central Michigan, LaFleur landed his first full-time gig at Northern Michigan in 2006. In fact, he was the first hire made by Anderson, who had coached against LaFleur while Anderson was the coach at Michigan Tech.

LaFleur coached quarterbacks and receivers for the 2006 season.
“I remember him as being neat, clean-cut, All-American, high-integrity, high-work ethic, high-energy, intelligent,” Anderson said. “He had very good people skills, very good player-coach skills. He earned respect from his players. I know it’s been 12 years but I’m sure all these traits have carried through and that’s why he’s had the success that he’s had.

“There’s no surprises here, quite honestly. He’s a great coach and has great knowledge of the game, based on being with his father for 20-some years, I suppose, and then learning the game as a high school and college player, and it carried over into his coaching and his relationships. Having that many years of on-the-field experience, he could communicate his experiences very well. His integrity and his work ethic and his honesty and his moral standards and everything fit very well with the Green Bay Packers. I think the fans will be appreciative of the way he carries himself.”

Anderson was the head coach at Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan for 25 years. That means he worked with a lot of coaches who aspired to become the next Steve Mariucci – the Northern Michigan legend who coached the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions. Something about LaFleur stood out to immediately to Anderson

“There’s no question,” Anderson said. “You get young coaches and they’re green behind the ears and they have their ideas and they’re all gung-ho, 100 miles an hour. But they’re going 100 miles an hour without a lot of experience. He came in green but he wasn’t too green, because he had that father-son experience, he had that playing experience. He had the demeanor and temperament and people skills to stand out. Was I surprised to see him climb as fast as he did? Yeah, a little bit, but it’s no different than when you get a great athlete that you know is going to play in high school, you know he’s going to play at a Division I level, you know he’s probably going to make the next level. Matt just had a demeanor about him where he just had the full package.”

Owens was hired as Ashland’s coach in December 2003. With a star quarterback in Billy Cundiff, who had transferred from Connecticut following the 2005 season, Owens searched for the best quarterback mind he could find to serve as offensive coordinator for the 2007 season. Enter LaFleur. Cundiff earned first-team All-American honors as Ashland finished fourth nationally in total offense and sixth in scoring.

“We’re always trying to hire guys that know more than we do,” Owens said. “I’ve always been the guy calling the offense and been an offensive guy here and other places, but I didn’t have great knowledge of the dropback passing game, the five-step game, the vertical passing game, the West Coast offense. Matt’s knowledge of that was exceptional. I really learned a lot from him with the way he coached it, the way he taught it, how passionate he was about it, how smart he was in terms of breaking down defenses and attacking defenses. I learned a lot from him with the ability to play-call with the priority of keeping your quarterback clean, having answers for your quarterback and protections that made sense. I’ve been around a lot of really good football coaches. I just don’t know that I’ve ever been around anyone that was as quick and as sharp in the passing game, in particular, as Matt. The other part was his ability to build relationships.”

The word “relationships” comes up again and again with the coaches LaFleur’s been around over the years. It’s probably why team president/CEO Mark Murphy used the word “fit” three times in introducing LaFleur. Clearly, LaFleur’s relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be paramount in the team’s success.

“He was the quarterback whisperer that everybody was trying to find,” Owens said. “It was instant the way they connected, the way they communicated. I think other people have seen that. Mike Vrabel was at Ohio State when I was there and I’ve been good friends with him over the years. I’m sure that’s part of the reason why Vrabe’s hired him down in Tennessee. People have seen that happen at that level. I watched it happen at the college level, just his ability to get the most out of a quarterback. The quarterback’s only about 90 percent of what happens on our teams, so it’s important to have that guy.”

Those people skills have to come naturally. LaFleur will be putting them to use in a hurry as he gets to know the team he’s inherited, in general, and the two-time MVP quarterback, in particular.

“It’s not something you can fake,” Owens said. “It’s got to be real, and it’s real with him. You can see the connection right away. That doesn’t mean he’s buddy-buddy with them, because he coaches his guys hard and he’s demanding. He’s a perfectionist. They just have instant respect for him. They’re talking the same language, seeing the same things. I can’t explain it but you know when a player and a coach connect. I’m not sure there’s a more important relationship on the team than that guy and the quarterback. If you go back from (Vince) Lombardi to (Bart) Starr, (Roger) Staubach to (Tom) Landry or (Tom) Brady to (Bill) Belichick, the dynasties have always been a relationship between those two personalities. The championship teams that I’ve been a part of, that relationship was critical. I think it’s going to happen right away with Matt. To me, it’s the one thing that defines him and sets him apart from other coaches I’ve been around.”

That’s what the Packers are counting on from a coach who’s never run the show at any level. While football is about X’s and O’s and calling the right plays at the right times, it’s also about building and fostering relationships to make the team greater than the sum of its parts. All along his path to Green Bay, LaFleur has built those relationships.

“He’s not afraid to keep in touch with the little guy,” Anderson said. “I was his first coach but that was 12 years ago. He doesn’t need to call me. He doesn’t need to talk to me. I’m a retired coach and off the sideline but he takes the time.”

Awrey considered LaFleur a member of his family, even though they haven’t worked together since 2003.

“My time with Matt was one of the most awesome times of my life,” Awrey said. “Matt has remained friends with me and my family and I’ve been friends with his family since the day I had him on our campus recruiting him. He is an awesome, awesome man. I’m more proud of the man that he is and the husband and father. He’s an awesome athlete – was an awesome athlete and probably still is. He’s as good of a coach as you’re going to find. He cares and he’s a hard worker. I think the Green Bay Packers got a good one.”
 

Frozen Tundra

Member
Member
Messages
355
“I remember him as being neat, clean-cut, All-American, high-integrity, high-work ethic, high-energy, intelligent,” Anderson said. “He had very good people skills, very good player-coach skills. He earned respect from his players.
This says more to me then most of the other trash I have read. He seems to have left in good standing with high praise wherever he goes. I am excited for Packer football for the first time in a long time now.
 

Budman

Lifetime Member
Lifetime Member
Messages
1,581
Love the Bernie Anderson comments. Dude was an icon at MTU when I was growing up and then went on to coach NMU. Nice article.
 

GBP4EVER

Member
Member
Messages
2,331
#Packers have hired former Washington linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti for the same position on Mike Pettine’s defensive staff.
Like this hire experinced LB coach not a guy who is new to spot he's coaching or new to coaching all together which GB has hired to much of in past.
 
Top